Separating Work and Personal Time

Today’s technology allows us extensive flexibility to work anywhere at any time. This can be really beneficial because it allows you to make personal choices about when your work. You can make the choice to coach your child’s afterschool soccer team, then finish up your work later in the evening. It can feel comforting to know that if there is a real work-related emergency you can be quickly available to handle it.

 But it is easy to get caught in the trap of being too available to work too much of the time. In the last 15 years we rapidly moved from clear separation between work and home into this world of constant connection to everything. At work, we can use our phones for personal use. At home, we can use our phones to continue to work well into the night. Is this healthy? Have we lost our ability to focus on one thing at a time and do it well?

 It is worth taking a few minutes to ask yourself what drives you to stay connected to work in the off-hours. Do you feel pressured by your peers and manager to respond to every email quickly? Do you feel that you will be passed up for the plum assignments and promotions? Or is your drive to stay connected more internal? Maybe your ego is fed by constantly responding to emails quickly. Maybe you take pride in being the first one to respond to a query at 10pm from your boss. If you opted out of playing the game of 24x7 availability via your phone, would something bad happen? I made the decision to not read emails on my phone, ever, and I don’t think it negatively affected my performance. In fact, I enjoyed many benefits and I feel that my performance improved! One of the most obvious benefits was that I was fully present with whatever I was doing. If I was watching TV with my family, I was actually watching it with them, not half watching and taking care of emails at the same time.  When watching my son’s soccer game, I was fully present with the game. I never missed his goal kick or great defensive move because I was “on my phone”.

 I do still work from home on my laptop, but when I open my laptop to work, everyone in the family knows that I am working and not pretending to engage with them when I’m really not there.

 Another benefit is that I sleep better. If I do have evening work to complete, I do it as soon as possible after dinner, then turn off my laptop and turn off my work thoughts. I consciously shift out of work mode through some simple evening rituals; writing in my journal, stretching, and reading.

 By separating work and personal time, I have more creative flow when I am working. My energy level is high and I have much better focus on the job at hand. With enough sleep and high creative energy, I feel that I keep with my peers despite not being connected to my email all the time. 

 I invite you to separate your work time and your personal time for a week and then evaluate the outcome for yourself. You might surprise yourself.